Kudos and thanks to my foodie friends Linda and Lori

4 03 2013

Two women I am lucky to have as friends each reached a milestone in their lives and careers in the past few days, and today’s post honors them. Both happen to be foodies. Both have Hakka “blood,” as do I.

Author Linda Lau Anusasananan’s The Hakka Cookbook received the Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World for 2012 award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards ceremony in Paris. It’s a crowning achievement following a full career as a food editor at Sunset magazine, where we met, and many years researching around the world the “cuisine” (if you can call it that) of her ancestral Hakka roots.

Linda Lau Anusasananan

Linda Lau Anusasananan

Hakka Chinese people descend from Han people who emigrated and still emigrate from their original land for a variety of reasons. Where they ended up in the world—in China it was mostly in the south in an area known as Meixian—they were not the first, therefore were known as “guest people” who did not get the best land. They were farmers, and their food was humble and of peasants. The book’s subtitle “Soul Food from Around the World” announces the good eats the reader can learn to make from the recipes Linda tested and fine tuned for the home cook. I guarantee they will work for you.

This is what Hakka families everywhere have looked for. The recipes show how regional cuisine influences basic Hakka food. Linda’s work fills a cultural need as well as explains what “Hakka” is with added stories and historical notes. Ultimately, it is a universal story about food, families everywhere, and how the world has gotten smaller.

Lori A. Wong

Lori A. Wong

When I left the magazine test kitchens in Menlo Park, California, those many years ago, Linda became the person I would call when I had a question about food science. Then I met Lori on my island.

This week Lori A. Wong, with her mother Marian, closed Byron’s Drive-In, the last remaining of their 17 or 18—it’s easy to lose count—restaurants on Oahu, ending 58 years of feeding islanders. Old-timers will remember Leon’s tavern, Andy’s Drive-In in Kailua, Orson’s Restaurant, Orson’s Bourbon House, Wong’s Okazu-ya, The Chowder House, Byron II, Andrew’s, Coral Reef, The Chinese Chuckwagon, Fishmonger’s Wife, Oinks, Big Ed’s, Andy’s Ebb Tide, The Little Red Hen, Henny Penny Chicken, Orson’s Chowderette, and The Seafood Emporium.

The landlord is planning to redevelop the land near Honolulu airport where you could get a good meal before boarding your plane. On Feb. 28 it was bye-bye Byron’s Drive-In. The rummage sale starts tomorrow, March 5, through Friday in the parking lot. Everything must go.

Now that you know of the Wong Family restaurant empire, and as you read the list above, most started by Lori’s father Andy Y. Y. Wong who died in 1985, and others by Lori and her mom, you are probably thinking, “They owned that restaurant, too?!”

Yup, and Lori’s first thought is that they had a really good run and that the restaurant business is pau (finished, over).

I became acquainted with Lori through our mutual Reiki teacher and friend Alice Anne Parker. Both Lori and Alice Anne certified me as a Reiki Master. Lori is a healer and was working with hospice patients. Over time I figured out Lori was a foodie. She’s taught in the Food Service department at Kapiolani Community College and now teaches cooking to middle school students at Punahou during the summer. She free lances as a food and beverage consultant.

She loves to try new restaurants with friends—as does Linda (the more dishes foodies can taste and disect, the better; lucky for me), but she rarely mentioned her family’s restaurant empire. But now that it seems to have ended, the word’s out. Bob Sigall wrote a nice column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Both Linda and Lori deserve a crown and a long rest, but I doubt they will rest on their laurels. These are my friends for a lifetime.

Copyright 2013 Rebekah Luke

Ink in our blood

2 10 2012

Once a news writer, always a news writer.

Both my friend and colleague Linda Lau Anusasananan and I are retired from working 9-5 for news and magazine publishers, but we still write regularly. Both of us post blogs—more than one each, still freelance, and we both just published books in the last two months. It was a coincidence that we both wrote independently about our families for future generations.

We follow our passions. Linda is a veteran food writer from Sunset, where I met her in the early Seventies in the editorial test kitchens. She enjoyed a long career at the magazine. The license plate on her car says “FOODIE.”

I, on the other hand, started writing the daily news at the Honolulu Advertiser. I moved to Sunset where I swapped my position at the Hawaii field office for six months for one at the Menlo Park headquarters. That is where I learned to write recipes and develop my appreciation and sense of taste for food. Later I wrote news and information about the community colleges of the University of Hawaii. I don’t have vanity plates.

Linda, my foodie friend

On Sunday Linda flew from California to share her The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from around the World (University of California Press, 2012) with the Chinese Hakka community in Honolulu. It was the day after the official book launch at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It’s the start of her book tour.

The Tsung Tsin Association’s Autumn Banquet was an opportunity to provide recipes and cultural information to an ethnic population that craves the food tastes of their childhood. There is no restaurant here that I know of that specializes in Hakka food, but now, someone could open one with Linda’s recipes (hint!).

As Linda wrote in her dedication, “Most of all, this is for Hakkas throughout the world, so they can honor and preserve their roots with the foods of their ancestors.”

Interestingly, both of us wrote about our “hometown villages” in China, recounting the 2005 trip Linda made to do her research. DH and I joined Linda’s family and, as I’ve mentioned before, enjoyed all the eating.

In The Chong Family in a New Millennium, authored by my cousin James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard and edited by Rebekah Luke (Chong Hee Books, 2012), I included the article “A Visit to Our Ancestral Homeland.” This little book is the sequel to Chong-Gossard’s The Chong Family History that chronicles my maternal grandparents’ story from the orphanage in Chong Lok, China, to 1992. Our 2012 book includes genealogy charts, full-color photos of nearly everyone of six generations, unique insights by the author and essays and anecdotes about family from several other cousins.

The sure-to-be-a-success recipes in The Hakka Cookbook are interwoven with stories about the recipes, the people who shared them, and Linda’s personal journey to learn about her Chinese roots. To me, I view it as the story of everyone who’s ancestors immigrated. Lucky for Hakka people, Linda’s book documents the experience for future generations. It’s a wonderful read.

As I write this, it’s dawn before everyone else is awake, even the dogs and the baby Sofia, and Linda is sitting across the table with her laptop too. We write because we believe it’s important that our children understand where we came from. The ink is in our blood, but rather than write for the government (i.e., public relations), we write what we like.

Future generations: Linda’s daughter Lisa and granddaughter Sofia are visiting from California too. Here they are at Kaaawa Beach yesterday.






Copyright 2012 Rebekah Luke

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